General Election 2015: Can top showbiz agent turned Labour candidate Michael Foster keep his cool on the campaign trail?

In his former career his temper was useful, but now he's turning on the charm

Adam Lusher
Friday 01 May 2015 15:35 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Michael Foster’s steely blue eyes bore into mine. The lips of the top showbiz agent-turned-Labour candidate for the Cornish constituency of Camborne and Redruth grow visibly thinner.

The glare intensifies. He leans towards me. It was a little unnerving, as he launcheds into a lengthy explanation of why he’s not a bully. “One of my qualities,” he concludes, “is calm persistence. I will. Get things. Done.”

I was not going to argue. Mr Foster had already addressed those claims about him having a “legendary temper” in his agent days – “all true.”

Theatrically raising his right index finger he declares: “This is the broken finger.” He broke it in his agent days, he tells me, while tapping on a table to make a point, so forcefully that the bone snapped.

I decide I would hate for us not to get on.

I had, after all, harboured high hopes of Mr Foster, ex-agent to radio presenter Chris Evans, ever since the claims made last Sunday by his rival candidate Loveday Jenkin, of the Mebyon Kernow party.

Having got a laugh at hustings by mentioning Mr Foster’s £1.5m home in the poorest constituency in England, she claimed he had erupted in response, calling her “a cunt” and threatening: “If you pick on me again, I will destroy you.”

At last! In one of the most antiseptic, media-managed elections in living memory, here was a candidate able to revive the pugilistic spontaneity of John “two jabs” Prescott, to deal with opponents, egg throwers, all comers, with a bit of unstaged, entertaining aggression. “It’s not dull,” promised his agent Jude Robinson. “He would admit he’s put his foot in it once or twice.”

I was soon on my way to Cornwall. And in Camborne – a seat that the Conservative candidate George Eustice captured from the Liberal Democrats in 2010 with a majority of just 66 votes, with Labour languishing nearly 9,000 votes behind – there was none of that wishy-washy deference you get with other candidates.

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This was canvassing with the firm smack of command, a man unafraid to give orders – to anybody. “Your job,” he told one bemused little boy who answered the door with his mother, “for the rest of your life, is to look after your mum.”

Gerald Lampshire, 68, a Labour voter, suggested people might be selling on produce obtained from food banks. “Have you seen that?” snapped Mr Foster. “No, you haven’t. It’s an urban myth.”

And then there were the canvassers: “Laura, try to stop chewing before you get to the door… Adam, what are you doing? Adam, can we just go? … Adam …. Where’s Adam?”

Opponent Loveday Jenkins roused Foster’s ire
Opponent Loveday Jenkins roused Foster’s ire (Getty Images)

“Michael is Michael,” says Adam Crickett, 30, when we found him. He smiles. “He’s inspiring. Instead of sitting on his money like other millionaires, he’s out on the streets trying to help people.”

Most voters like him too. There was undeniable charm in the way that the diminutive Mr Foster bounds up drives bellowing “Hello!” like a turbo-charged miniature Tigger. Only one floating voter declares him “a bit pushy.” No, she didn’t want to be identified.

Back at Camborne Labour HQ, I ask him what sort of guy he really was. “Passionate.” A thoughtful pause. “Compassionate… When I was a kid, the Bible parable that struck me was the one about the rich man leaving 10 per cent of his fields to be gleaned by the poor.”

Which, alas, brings us to that £1.5m house – to suggestions that he had come among them, donating £119,000 to Camborne and Redruth Labour Party since his selection, to impart his munificence and metropolitan genius. In Dr Jenkin’s scathing words: “He obviously thinks Cornwall needs a saviour.”

The stare is back. He is leaning forward. I can’t help noticing that during our interview, Mr Foster is slowly crushing a coke can between his hands. Multi-tasking, surely: do an interview, sort out the recycling at the same time.

“I make no comment ever on what people say,” he adds, magnanimously. The denial of that hustings incident could not have been more categoric.

“It never happened. Nobody saw it. Nobody heard it.”

“I have never been vicious,” he says calmly. “I have no problems with you saying I was an aggressive agent.”

But, you see, the aggression, the temper was on behalf of others: for clients, for justice.

“I am sure that many people have benefited from my passion for getting things for them. And if I took you to see some of the poverty that exists in this community, you would be angry.”

Besides, he adds, “I have tempered my temper. For which I am completely indebted to Dr Steve Peters.”

Who? What?

Dr Steve Peters is, apparently, “the greatest forensic psychiatrist in the country,” a man who has served as a consultant to Liverpool FC, the snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and the England football team. Mr Foster met him about four years ago.

So Dr Peters helped him to deal with his temper?

“To help me look at all aspects of my life. Which resulted in being more able to control swings in emotion.”

That was lucky. Especially as his mate, television hard man Ross Kemp, would be backing him up on the doorsteps on Tuesday.

He seems positively genial when we part. I think it went rather well – one crushed coke can, no broken fingers – his or mine.

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